Walking Together (Part 2)

Dear BPCWA worshipper, In last week’s pastoral, we saw the importance of unity of convictions to have the blessedness of the Christian marriage that God intends for His children. Differences are real, and they can and do cause friction between parties who are expected to live or walk closely together. Unbelievers may overflow with praises about “how great their love is” to sacrifice such and such for the sake of love, but unbelievers don’t consider the spiritual aspects, merely physical.

The reality of unity in marriage. As we have witnessed even recently, some who hold on to other systems of beliefs struggle with even just being a regular worshipper here. If that is so with an attendee at church, think about the greater implications in a marriage wherein spouses live side by side daily, for life! Can one join in the union of marriage with another Christian fully knowing that there are often big differences in persuasions and practices between both systems of belief? Well, either party will inevitably either need to be willing to change their framework of beliefs and practices, or decide (consciously or unconsciously) to ignore God’s warning about the need to agree in order to walk together (Amos 3:3). If you are someone like that and feel that marriage is more important to you and are willing to change your beliefs, then you can have an amiable marriage and seem happy to all. But this is mere physical amiableness and will be at the expense of effectiveness for the Lord as one flesh. Is the reality of the one flesh principle meant to be just about the physical marriage? Of course not. It is about the unity of hearts and minds to walk and practice the faith to fulfil the purpose of marriage towards each other and in the upbringing of children. Hence, Amos 3:3 is about the spiritual walk together. What do such unequal yoking in marriages often lead to? There are three typical outcomes. One is to avoid talking about matters of faith by sweeping the differences of convictions under the carpet so that the marriage is amiable on the surface. The other is the eventual sadness to practice one’s faith against one’s conscience. Or one can “renounce” one’s previous beliefs to cover up one’s wilful act. We certainly consider other good sound mainstream denominations fellow brethren in the faith in God’s Universal Church. But I hope that no one will use “converted” away from Calvinism (as we’ve seen in our recent church study series) as an easy excuse, making it sound like Calvinism has little or less Biblical basis, just to justify their marriage which they voluntarily walked into with full knowledge of the differences between them! Let us not take God’s warning in Amos 3:3 lightly and think we know better. Amos 3:3 is God’s rhetorical warning so that we avoid the eventual spiritually sad marriage (which may be physically happy initially) – just don’t talk about issues or just compromise – to have a “workable solution”. But such a walk together results in a lack of convictions and religion becomes a matter of ritual! Eventually, even the physical amicability will be affected too.

But does marrying someone of the same convictions guarantee happiness? Sadly, no. Being yoked together in the bond of marriage also means one affects the other in their walk since they are tied together in many ways. Even marrying someone within BPCWA or the B-P faith does not ensure a spiritually successful and blessed marriage. Yoked with someone with differing spiritual maturities and commitment levels, even with a common faith, will also result in many challenges and difficulties. Choices for the family regarding time usage, finances, job choices, upbringing of children, in-laws, church life and service, and family worship can be areas of great disagreement. So, either the spiritually stronger spouse yields and chooses to backslide to the level of the weaker spouse to have some “peace” in the home, or the marriage will be filled with constant debates and “discussions” if the stronger spouse remains firm about choosing that which is spiritually excellent. When there is an unequal level of spiritual commitment to God, the Word of God is no longer the final authority to resolve family issues and choices. Frustrations will mount. This naturally leads to a downward spiral in spiritual focus. Children will not be brought up as godly seeds, and the purpose of marriage falls apart. Can the family look happy? Sure, happily gaining more wealth, more “family time”, more earthly achievements, more holiday trips, “successful” children, and more possessions. Is that what God instituted marriage for? We know the obvious answer is a resounding no. If you are indeed in such a situation, I hope that through the understanding of these very real issues, the stronger spouse will not relent in following the Lord but continue to persevere and pray that your spouse will love and want to follow the Lord as you do. Set the example of devotion to God and be that light in your home. Remember that for every Christian, God must reign supreme. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (De 6:5) means loving God more than even your spouse and children.

Walking together in church. Even aside from the marriage arena, can two walk together in the same church if they do not agree on what that walk should be like? As a church, an important aspect where we must learn to apply the Amos 3:3 principle is regarding the appointment of potential pastors, fulltime workers, Session members, and also committee leads. Because of their appointments, all such must be people of convictions. Hence, such ones must be fully convicted of the doctrines of the church in which they serve. Otherwise, they will not be effective in teaching the doctrines we believe in and will serve and make decisions contrary to the church’s convictions. The fault lines will inevitably lead to problems down the road. Even for lay people, two worshippers under the same pastor may differ. Learning God’s Word is precept upon precept. Those who have been attending Bible Studies regularly would have had certain foundations and may understand why we may say and do some of the things that we say and do based on Biblical principles learnt over time. Their faith has been built up and they are also ready for greater consecration and more in-depth study of the Word. Those who have not been studying with us regularly may disagree because their thinking has not been renewed by God’s Word. This is a reality even in a smaller church like ours. Those who are growing in knowledge want more and want to know how they can grow in different areas. Enthused, they want others to share and experience the blessedness of their Christian experience too. But there may be some who may only have stayed as babes in Christ and feel “pressurised” at what they perceive as “demands” (even though what is taught is rightly biblical) that come in their way, whether through the preaching or from encouragements of fellow worshippers. This can lead to real misunderstandings and tensions in the church that hinder walking together. Worse, it can easily lead to some influencing others to not be “too spiritual” and encouraging them to follow their ways. Others may stir unhappiness with the church because they have differing desires regarding what is spiritually good. So, a common faith and striving towards maturity of faith must be the common goal of the church as that is what Christ intends for His church. Let us have a unity of heart and mind for each other as the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:2 “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

So, is it possible for two to walk together if they do not agree? I hope that the answer is apparent to you now – no, they can’t. God’s wisdom is the best wisdom. To not take heed is foolish. We will reap what we sow, even if we may seem happy when we start off sowing an unequal yoke.

Yours in our Lord’s service,